CELF’s Journey - Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation

CELF’s Journey

Almost 20 years of growth, experience & accomplishments

Founder’s Story

As the child of educators and professional musicians, Katie Isaak Ginsberg had early exposure to her parents’ dedication to and creativity in their careers. “While both professional performers, my parents put their students and teaching first. They were known as exceptional listeners, valued great pedagogy, and maintained lifelong friendships with their students and colleagues.” Years later, Ginsberg recognized her deep appreciation for teaching, which inspired the strategy and mission behind the organization she would eventually create and lead. 

Environmental Epiphany

A few years before founding the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation, Ginsberg said she had an “environmental epiphany” while listening to a former CEO of a European company speak about his experience as the company’s leader. The company encouraged employees to bike to work and made plant-based cleaning products. They thought they were making great progress, until the CEO visited the source of the company’s raw materials, where he discovered their harvesting methods were destroying a habitat thousands of miles away. The cautionary tale and the company’s subsequent success in developing sustainable methods of production and consumption were lessons Ginsberg took to heart. 

Inspiration To Make A Difference

A former advertising executive, Ginsberg never thought that she would one day lead an award-winning sustainability education non-profit. It was motherhood that ultimately spurred her to become a dedicated environmentalist. 

One day Ginsberg’s son came home excited from celebrating Earth Day in elementary school. The students were invited to become “environmental detectives” to identify impact areas related to water and energy waste. “It was very empowering for him to see that even young students can make a change, and collectively, make a big difference.” Ginsberg realized then that environmental education should be weaved into the school curriculum throughout the year, starting in the formative years of kindergarten. 

Creation of the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation

In 2003, Katie Ginsberg founded the not-for-profit, CELF, to “promote and provide professional learning in education for sustainability as an integral part of K-12 education.”

“Young children are innately systems thinkers. They see the world as an integrated whole. Traditional education trains them to become linear thinkers, working against their natural inclination,” Ginsberg said. “Given the toll our rapidly growing demands for food, freshwater, timber, fiber and fuel have taken on climate change and our ecosystems, if our children are to envision a sustainable future, we must make human/environmental interdependence and values/ethics a central part of teaching in all core disciplines.”

The catalyst to supporting teachers was recognizing their potential impact and the scale of positive change that can be achieved through them. An individual teacher can reach between 20 and 150 students each year!  Collectively, this approach has enabled CELF to reach over one million students using inquiry to inspire learning for a more equitable, peaceful, healthy and sustainable future. 

The rest is history!

Future Outlook: Transformation in Motion

We have a bold plan to expand CELF’s work and scale our impact in the years ahead.

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